A collector is someone who has more art than they have wall space. They purchase art not simply because they have walls to cover, but because they have developed an addiction for beauty that is more powerful than mere interior design.
Bevan Chipman is a collector. His Salt Lake City apartment is a monument to his habit. Every wall in the spacious apartment is filled with high quality art — mostly by Utah artists. The art fills the hallways and spills into the bathrooms. But even that is not enough to display what he has collected — some works end up in his Sugar House studio, hanging between his own accomplished watercolors.
Bevan Chipman is a retired guidance counselor. He spends most of his time now painting, traveling, and adding to his collection. His is not just a collection of art; it is a collection of relationships, experiences and anecdotes. His eye for beauty is coupled with palpable affection for people. Each piece in his apartment has a personality behind it and a story of its acquisition. He shows them off with as much pride and affection as a loving patriarch.
Chipman began collecting in 1967, the year he moved back to Utah after working four years in California, just after graduation from college. At the ’67 April Salon in Springville he purchased his first works, a painting by Charles Rowber, an instructor at Weber State, and a charcoal drawing of Mahatma Ghandi by Harold Peterson. His interest in art soon became a passion for collecting when he came across a painting by John Fairbanks in an antique shop. When he asked a friend if he thought it would be a good investment his friend told him that it would be but that who he should really check out was LeConte Stewart.
He did so. He contacted the artist to make a visit and came home with a couple of pieces. Over the years he has purchased four more by Stewart, which remain the pride of his collection. Stewart’s landscape work sets the tone for much of Chipman’s collection. Though not a conscious effort to “construct” a collection of the sort, many of the pieces he has form a pedigree from this one Utah artist. He has several pieces by Gaell Lindstrom, who studied with Stewart. He also collects Osral Allred, an early student of Lindstrom, as well as artists from a younger generation of similarly minded artists, including Russell Case.
Though Chipman does have a number of figure works, the landscapes make up the bulk of the collection. The two pieces he owns by Denis Philips, while employing the abstract techniques of this renowned Utah painter, have a definite landscape motif. One of the pieces, “Dead Horse Point,” Chipman came across at a show at Phillips Gallery. He mentioned to Bonnie Phillips that he was interested in the piece. When she came back a little later to tell him that someone else was also interested he said to her “Consider it sold, Bonnie.”
About collecting pieces, Chipman says, “You don’t hesitate. There have been a couple of paintings that I’ve really liked and not bought and then I’ve gone back and they’re gone.” Chipman rarely makes this mistake, however, since he says that he can tell very quickly whether or not he wants a painting.” Most of the paintings that I’ve bought are paintings that I looked at and in the first two or three minutes said ‘Gotta have that.’”
That doesn’t mean that Chipman does not put time into his decisions. He will oftentimes follow artists for a number of years, admiring their work until he finds one he wants. “I don’t buy paintings just because it’s that artist. I wait till I find something that I really like.” Chipman puts in the time to find the paintings he likes. He says that every weekend that he has been in town for the past ten or twelve years he has gone to the gallery strolls.
Chipman may have an immediate reaction to the visual qualities of the pieces he enjoys, but his interest in art goes much deeper, to the artists themselves. He knows the artists he collects, and can usually tell you something about them and their piece.
A couple of his most recent acquisitions were from two young painters — Steve Larson and Jason Jones — whom he met a few years ago.
“About three or four years ago I was coming home — it was early Spring and extremely cold outside and I saw these two kids over where I was parked. It was freezing. So I parked the car and I went over to them — I was curious — and I said ‘What are you guys doing.’ Steve’s nose was red and running, he had gloves on and sitting there painting away. I told them, ‘Listen I live over in this building, I have a collection of art you might enjoy seeing. When you’re through painting come over and I’ll fix a hot cup of tea.’ About an hour later they showed up at the door and we’ve just been good friends ever since.”
He bought one of Larson’s landscapes from a recent exhibition at the Glendinning gallery, which he helped organize. Chipman is actively involved in the arts. A few years ago he had organized an exhibition for four older Utah artists, Ed Maryon, Harrison Groutage, Gaell Lindstrom and Osral Allred, also at the Glendinning. Organizing wasn’t enough, however. He couldn’t leave this exhibition without picking up a piece by Lindstrom.
Chipman was also involved in a 1997 exhibition at Art Access gallery featuring the works of the late Dan Baxter. He got to know Baxter in the mid ’70s and purchased several of his paintings, the last one just before the artist died of A.I.D.S. on November 13, 1986. He remembers bringing the last payment to the artist and visiting with him the day before he died. Of Baxter, Chipman has written, “Each time that I bought [a painting] I felt that Dan had undervalued his work. Consequently I always felt obliged to offer more money. Thinking back, I am sure that Danny did not realize the value, not only of his paintings, but of himself.”
Because he admires and respects, and is often times good friends with the artists he collects, he likes to pay what a painting is worth. “I never barter. If I want the painting I’m willing to pay the price that they’ve listed.”
Which is not to say that he is not eager to get a bargain. He has his own fair share of garage-sale bargain finds. The one he is most proud of is a watercolor by Gaell Lindstrom. He says that he was in the Ninth-street consignment shop when he noticed the work. It wasn’t signed on the front and when he looked on the back he saw “Gaell Lindstrom ‘Beached’ 1967” with a price of $100, marked down to $90. “So obviously it came home,” is Chipman’s succinct summation. When Lindstrom was visiting Chipman a few months ago he was happy to sign the piece.
He has picked up paintings in a variety of ways. He received one from Ed Maryon as a gift for house sitting. Another by the same artist was won at a raffle given by the artist at one of his home shows.
Chipman’s collection itself has even helped him pick up a piece or two. One day while visiting Ella Peacock for the first time he became enchanted by one of her pieces. She was reluctant to part with it and he didn’t want to insist, but he did mention to her that her piece would be in good company — with the likes of Stewart, Randall Lake, Francis Zimbeaux and others. “Oh hell,” she replied, “just take it.”
One of Chipman’s favorite pieces is a large view of Lombardy poplars in the winter by Earl Jones. He had visited Jones in his studio, looking for a work, but couldn’t find anything he liked. Later Jones showed him around his home where Chipman saw the Lombardy painting above a bed and convinced the artist to sell it to him. He likes the work so much that he has hung his dining room walls with a dark lavender fabric to match the underpainting in the Jones painting.
When he is not home enjoying the art he has lovingly collected over the years, Chipman is busy with his own art. He can be found almost every morning at the Rockwood Studios where he works. He began as an oil painter, but quickly turned to watercolor, which has become his medium of choice. He is currently working on a series of figures of Sudanese immigrants, which he plans to exhibit at the Art Access Gallery in 2004. Proceeds from the exhibition will benefit a scholarship fund for the Sudanese established by the Presbyterian church. A sense of beauty and humanity infuses Chipman’s personality, his life and his habits. The art he paints and the collection he has created attest to it.
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.
Categories: Visual Arts